January 8, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: Dean's Not To Judge?
Over at NRO, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has a devastating look at why Howard Dean's remarks about not pre-judging Osama bin Laden's guilt until he'd been tried by a jury are such damning evidence of Dean's unfitness for high office. Key paragraphs:
Even at their most superficial level, Dean's remarks illustrate a mind-bending naiveté about the president's central role in federal law enforcement. Our Constitution commits the prosecution of criminals to the executive. United States attorneys in each federal district are appointees of the president; it is solely under presidential authority that they bring cases. The presumption of innocence - widely overused as a rhetorical lifeline for the arrantly guilty - is indeed deeply rooted in Anglo-American common law. But it is germane only as an evidentiary presumption, a vehicle for assigning the burden of proof at a criminal trial to the government rather than the accused. Yes, it solemnly binds the jury, but it has little if any relevance outside the trial context. For example, those accused of violent crimes are routinely held in jail prior to trial, often for well over a year. Even though they've not yet been convicted of anything, the presumption of innocence avails them nothing in bail proceedings.
The presumption posturing by Dean is especially unbecoming as applied to executive-branch officials. Federal prosecutors, once they have evaluated evidence and decided to bring charges, actually presume a defendant is guilty. Were they not to believe both that the accused is actually guilty and that the existing proof is sufficient to warrant conviction by a rational jury, it would be unethical for them to proceed to trial. An officer of the executive branch who seeks and obtains an indictment has already prejudged the jury trial
McCarthy also reviews the history of why it was so damaging to contiunue treating terrorism as a law enforcement problem after the mid-1990s.
Dean's inability to pass judgment on bin Laden isn't a gaffe; it's inseparable from his steadfast refusal to connect any dots about Saddam Hussein; it's the same attitude.
I agree that this might be the dumbest thing Dean has said yet. No small feat.
BTW, I assume this is a different Andrew McCarthy than the star of such popular Comedy Central films as "Mannequin" and "Weekend at Bernies"?
First of all, I'm not sure what dots your talking about connecting with Hussein, but if they end at OBL or 9/11, then if the CIA and the administration can't connect them, how do you expect anybody to? With regard to Dean's putatively damaging refusal to prejudge, your argument isn't sound; fore one thing, the office of chief executive is complex and encompasses many roles, as you point out, but the President needs the ability to wear the right hat at the right time, as it were, and he shouldn't *always* be assuming everyone who looks guilty is guilty when he's not utilizing the resources of the branch that serves that role. When acting as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he's held to a different standard than as the chief of the US Attorneys. That's only common sense. And, if you're going to fault Dean for the sentiment, you have to fault Bush as well based on this Dec 15 press conference where he states "You're not supposed to pre-judge." in the context of prosecuting Saddam.
I like the baseball writing ... though another point of contention between us would be Rice's credentials for the Hall! :)
Please connect the dots about Saddam Hussein for us so that we know what Dean is refusing to do.
How many times do we have to go through this? There's certainly plenty of stuff out there and I've certainly been through the arguments enough. No, I'm not saying there's evidence (at least that I'm aware of) tying Saddam directly to September 11; that's a red herring that's almost entirely of the Left's creation and designed to distract from the more troublesome aspects of the Iraqi regime.
Just to hit a few points yet again. In rooting out state-sponsored terrorism, you have to look at motive, means and opportunity.
*We know Saddam had the motive (his hatred of America had previously led him to take irrational steps like trying to have George HW Bush assassinated, and his refusal to back down before Gulf War 1 showed his stubborn willingness to fight against the tides of reality), the willingness to support terrorism (his newspapers glorified the September 11 attacks; his regime put up murals of the attacks; he openly supported suicide bombers in Israel), the willingess to use chemical weapons on civilians, and an acute interest in biological weapons that had no military application but could be used for terrorism.
*We knew at the time that Saddam had been working on the means, in the form of his bio, chem and nuclear programs. We knew then and know much more now about how he concealed those programs. We knew then that he had had large stores of bio and chem weapons and we still don't know what he did with them. We may or may not turn up functioning WMD stores -- personally, I still suspect there's bioweapons out there, since those are the easiest to hide, and the anthrax attacks show how easy it is to conceal the source of a bio attack. He did everything he could to convince us he had chemical weapons.
*Opportunity? There's no reason to believe that Saddam lacked opportunities to work with terrorist groups, and there's been a variety of evidence showing his regime's contacts with various terror groups and figures over the years, from Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-linked groups to Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal . . . it would take a very blinkered view of American security to ignore that threat.
Dean has had his head in the sand, always willing to give the benefit of every doubt to the dictators and the terrorists. I'd fear for my life if he was elected.